Some civil service examinees find a test question curiously ‘pro-China’

April 1, 2018 - 12:19 PM
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Philippines, China flags
Flags of China and the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte is pursuing a policy of unprecedented friendliness to China, the Philippines' longtime rival over several maritime features and areas. (Reuters/Thomson Peters)

MANILA, Philippines — A few aspiring civil servants were uncomfortable about one particular question on the March 18 professional exam.

A Twitter thread by a certain @xandicheeks, who took the civil service exam, claimed that Question 58 of the test’s English part smacked of “pro-Chinese propaganda.”

The thread author said the question required test takers to rearrange a series of five seemingly arbitrary sentences to form a coherent paragraph.

Two of the sentences pertained to the West Philippine Sea dispute, but the remaining ones suggested that the Chinese should not be considered foreign, and that they had greatly contributed to the Philippines in terms of economy, culture and technology, the author said.

While Interaksyon has yet to see the exact wording of the exam question, which is kept confidential, @xandicheeks’ thread has been the subject of a discussion on the Filipino board of Reddit.

Other test takers backed the thread’s claims on the forum. Several other Twitter users, who said they took the exam, similarly agreed to @xandicheeks’ observations.

Questionable question

The Twitter user, who refused to reveal her real name, said she took the exam hoping to work in government after completing post-graduate studies.

“For a paragraph reorganization item, I scanned through all the sentences to find out the best sequence out of all the sequences found in the choices. I began to wonder why there seemed to be a questionable jump from the West Philippine Sea dispute to Fiipino-Chinese friendship,” @xandicheeks told Philstar.com/Interaksyon in an online interview.

“Although these two are intertwined, what got me was the wording and the flow because the thought found in the entire paragraph seemed very political,” the Twitter user said.

For the author, the sudden shift was “problematic.”

“Why would you suddenly jump from two impartial sentences (sentence 1 and 2), with the former defining the issue and the latter recognizing that (the sea row) has been a long-time issue, to three sentences telling me that the Philippines and China have had a long history together?” the user quipped.

The author was not able to note the sentences listed in verbatim as she still had to answer the rest of the exam. But she insisted having remembered the gist of each of the statements.

Another civil service exam taker, meanwhile, also voiced out her disappointment over the exam question.

“At first, I thought some parts were irrelevant. They were not connected at all with the rest of the sentences about the Spratlys (islands),” said Nathalie Robles, a senior college student who is expecting to graduate in May.

Despite wanting to pass the exam, Robles refused to answer the item.

“I just wanted to have career options. I could work for the people even without a government position through NGO’s and civic movements. At present, I do not aspire to be a civil servant. Not at all for the current administration,” Robles said.

Policy context

These questions over the civil service exam came as President Rodrigo Duterte pursues a policy of unprecedented friendliness to China, the Philippines’ longtime rival over several maritime features and areas.

President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping
In this Nov. 11, 2017 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte is welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Crowne Plaza Da Nang in Vietnam prior to their bilateral meeting. (PPD/Robinson Niñal)

Duterte’s new approach to the sea row was despite Beijing’s construction of islands and installation of military outposts in the Philippines’ waters.

Interaksyon tried to reach the Civil Service Commission for comment two weeks ago, but has not received a response as of press time. The CSC is responsible for formulating and conducting the civil service exam.